February is Black History Month, a celebration of the many achievements of Black Canadians and Americans. It is also an opportunity to understand diverse stories and spotlight those who made a difference in Black culture and history and hear their voices.
At a time when racism, hatred, and injustice are rampant, it’s only logical to honour the legacy of those who sacrificed so much to impact society. Here are a few beloved movies to watch this month to learn from and enjoy.
Based on the life of African American athlete Jesse Owens, Race chronicles the athlete’s struggle to endure racial discrimination and adversity on his way to the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. The movie is an enthralling epic about courage, determination, and tolerance. It is also an inspiring drama about a young man’s struggle to become an Olympic legend, winning four medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany, which was an unbroken record for 48 years. Starring Stephan James, a Canadian actor, the movie was released in 2016.
The Hate U Give
After receiving rave reviews at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, The Hate U Give was released in the United States in the fall of the same year. Based on Angie Thomas’ best-selling novel, The Hate U Give depicts the life of Starr Carter, a Black high school student who attends a predominantly white private high school. After a gun goes off at a party she attends, Starr is driven home by her best friend, Khalil. She witnesses the fatal shooting of her friend at the hands of a police officer, and Khalil’s death becomes a national news story as another unarmed Black man killed by the police. Facing pressure from the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right. The movie encourages young men and women to speak up and tackles the harsh reality of racism and police brutality.
The 2014 movie directed by Ava DuVernay is based on the 1965 voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. It stars British actor David Oyelowo as the iconic Martin Luther King Jr. The critically acclaimed historical drama showcases the struggles of African Americans over the marches they held for 18 days to secure equal voting rights in the United States. The protests were repeatedly met with violence and resistance. Nevertheless, the movement contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which is considered a defining moment in American history. Selma won several awards for its success.
The Color Purple
The Color Purple is a 1985 movie based on Alice Walker’s renowned novel and directed by legendary director Steven Spielberg. Considered among the most powerful cultural hallmarks of American literature, it depicts the life of Celie, a young African American teenager who narrates her life story through painfully sincere letters to God. The movie emphasizes the importance of young Black girls pursuing their dreams and not giving up in the face of adversity. Throughout the film, Celie learns to love herself and independently face her fears.
Starring Denzel Washington as one of the most revolutionary Black leaders, Malcolm X tells the story of Malcolm Little. In his quest for justice, he changes his name to Malcolm X and converts to Islam. The movie depicts his journey as a preacher who exposes the myths and hypocrisies of racism in America. Malcolm X stresses the importance of African-American pride and the fundamental right of all people to be treated with dignity. On his last epic spiritual journey, Malcolm X makes a pilgrimage to Mecca; upon his return to the States, he becomes isolated and is eventually assassinated by vengeful Black Muslims.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Based on a real-life story and the renowned non-fiction book by American author Rebecca Skloot, the movie documents the life of Henrietta Lacks. Starring American actress Renee Elise Goldsberry, the film portrays the life of the first African American woman who became a pioneer for medical breakthroughs when her cells were used to create the first line of immortal human cells. Before her death in 1951 from cervical cancer, cells were removed from Henrietta’s tumor and cultured in a lab. They were later found to be immortal and were used without her consent to assist in developing polio vaccines, cloning, and gene mapping.
David Messiha | Staff Writer